September 2021 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 August 2021
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Maintenance of International Peace and Security: The Elders

Expected Council Action

In September, Ireland will convene a briefing on peace and security issues with members of The Elders, a non-governmental organisation of distinguished public figures founded by Nelson Mandela that strives to promote human rights and peace. Mary Robinson, who chairs The Elders and is the former President of Ireland (1990-1997) and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), and Lakhdar Brahimi, an emeritus member of The Elders who is the former Algerian foreign minister (1991-1993) and a veteran UN diplomat—are expected to brief. It appears that the meeting is intended to provide an opportunity for members of The Elders to share their views on several issues that the Council is grappling with, including Afghanistan, Ethiopia (Tigray), Myanmar, and climate change and security, among others.

No formal outcome is anticipated from the meeting.


Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa (1994-1999), founded The Elders in 2007. Its mission is “to engage with global leaders and civil society at all levels to resolve conflict and address its root causes, to challenge injustice, and to promote ethical leadership and good governance”. It works through both private and public diplomacy.

Mary Robinson and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is the deputy chair of The Elders, have briefed the Council on previous occasions as representatives of this organisation. The meeting will represent the first time that Brahimi has addressed the Council in his capacity as an Elder. Several themes have emerged in previous Council briefings by The Elders, including the importance of addressing nuclear proliferation and climate change, promoting women’s equality and welfare to address global challenges, and upholding the multilateral system, among others.

Key Recent Developments

On 12 June 2019, the Security Council held a briefing on “Conflict prevention and mediation” during Kuwait’s Council presidency. In addition to Secretary-General António Guterres, Mary Robinson and Ban Ki-moon briefed on behalf of The Elders. Robinson criticised the failure of the Council’s permanent members to uphold their responsibilities under the UN Charter by favouring “realpolitik or short-term power stratagems”. She pointed in particular to the “repeated use of the veto by certain permanent members on draft resolutions aimed to prevent mass atrocities”. Robinson noted that The Elders believed that the Council could play a proactive role in preventing conflict and addressing challenges such as climate change and cyber-threats. She further emphasised the importance of integrating the views and experiences of women in conflict prevention and peacekeeping efforts. Ban said that the Council could do more to support the good offices work of the Secretary-General, called for enhanced coordination between the UN and regional organisations in preventing and resolving conflicts, and expressed concern about the threat of nuclear conflict.

On 9 January 2020, the Council held a ministerial-level open debate hosted by Viet Nam on the “Maintenance of international peace and security: upholding the UN Charter” as an opportunity for member states to reflect on and reaffirm their commitment to upholding Charter principles, particularly in the context of international peace and security. Secretary-General Guterres and The Elders’ Chair Robinson briefed. During the meeting, a presidential statement was adopted in which the Council upheld its commitment to multilateralism and the central role of the UN.

At the meeting, Robinson underscored The Elders’ concern about two existential threats facing the global community: nuclear proliferation and climate change. She noted that The Elders had underscored the need for “all nuclear Powers to get serious about disarmament and to pursue policies of nuclear minimization in order to preserve peace for future generations”. She added that a “new mindset” was required that recognises the urgency of the climate crisis. Robinson also asked the Council to “give greater priority to the terrible problem of systemic violence and discrimination against women and girls”.

The Council held a high-level open debate on “Pandemics and the Challenges of Sustaining Peace” via videoconference on 12 August 2020 during Indonesia’s Council presidency. In addition to Secretary-General Guterres and Sarah Cliffe, director of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, former Secretary-General Ban briefed in his capacity as a member of The Elders. Ban criticised the Council for its delayed agreement in adopting resolution 2532 of July 2020—which demanded a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on the Council’s agenda and called upon all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a 90-day humanitarian pause in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Security Council Presidential Statements
9 January 2020S/PRST/2020/1 This was a presidential statement adopted during the ministerial-level debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: upholding the UN Charter”.
Security Council Letters
14 August 2020S/2020/799 This contained the record of the briefings and statements from the 12 August open debate (held by VTC) on “Pandemics and the Challenges of Sustaining Peace”.
Security Council Meeting Records
9 January 2020S/PV.8699 This was a ministerial-level open debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: upholding the UN Charter” where member states reflected on and reaffirmed their commitment to upholding Charter principles, particularly in the context of international peace and security. The list of speakers numbered 111 member states, which led to the open debate continuing over the following two days (Resumptions 1 and 2).
12 June 2019S/PV.8546 The Security Council held a briefing on “Conflict prevention and mediation”.


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